COP26 climate mitigation and adaptation plans
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Last week, a ministerial delegation led by the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment met with climate representatives to explore opportunities for cooperation, financing and support for South Africa’s Just Transition ahead of COP26.

South Africa’s ambitious, revised Nationally Determined Contribution to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions, submitted under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, requires an equally ambitious multilateral commitment of financial support by developed countries for the country’s Just Transition.

This was the message conveyed by the delegation led by Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy in a meeting with climate envoys, led by UK COP26 envoy John Murton, in the City of Tshwane. The climate envoys included representatives from the UK, France, Germany and the US. Representatives from the European Union were also present.

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The South African delegation included the Ministers of Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel; Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan; Deputy Minister of Finance, David Masondo and Deputy Minister of DIRCO, Alvin Botes.

The discussions, which took place a few weeks ahead of COP26 in Glasgow, aimed to explore opportunities for enhanced co-operation, financing and support for South Africa’s Just Transition to a low carbon economy and climate-resilient society.

The delegation explained that South Africa, as a developing country, is committed to contributing its fair share towards global low-emissions, and a climate-resilient economy and society by mid-century. The delegation recognised that the consequences of climate change will be catastrophic for the world, and for South Africa in particular, without global ambitious action to reduce emissions, and address adaptation.

According to the delegation, the latest science makes it clear that in order to prevent these catastrophic consequences, an accelerated shift to a low-emissions society is required. South Africa in partnership with the rest of Africa is on the front-line in the global struggle against climate change and is dedicating significant resources to adapt to the reality of an already-changing climate and address consequential loss and damage.

South Africa has set an ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution of 420- 350 Mt CO2-eq which is compatible with Paris Agreement goals. However, to achieve such an ambitious target, developed countries must meet financing commitments made under the UNFCCC and reaffirmed in the Paris Agreement adopted at COP21.

While South Africa is committed to a Just Transition, the country needs certainty and predictability of the financing available to it to accelerate this transition. An irrevocable agreement that can be signed at COP26 is needed, where commitments of all parties are clear.

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Some of the specific areas where South Africa requires immediate support include repowering and repurposing of retiring coal plants, investment in new low carbon generation capacity and transmission and distribution infrastructure, the first phase of the Just Transition support Electric Vehicle (EV) manufacture in South Africa (a critical transition pathway for the automotive industry) and support for an export-oriented green hydrogen industry based on low-cost renewable energy.

As the largest carbon emitter on the African continent, South Africa is particularly well-positioned to be the preferred partner for concessional climate (or ‘green’) funding to accelerate the decarbonisation of its economy. 

In this regard, South Africa’s Just Transition requires substantially concessional and grant funding and technical assistance which considers current fiscal constraints and supports the government’s quest to promote long term financial sustainability.

South Africa is proposing the establishment of a Just Transition Financing Facility, which will support the Just Transition process across the relevant sectors of the economy. This represents a win-win for South Africa and its international partners, enabling ambitious climate action in South Africa, comprehensively addressing social impacts while meeting developed country commitments to finance the transition.

A technical task team made up of expert officials will take forward this discussion with the aim of reaching an enabling framework agreement by COP 26.